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Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton Hardcover – April 1, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In this vivid account of Buster Keaton’s early years, he calls himself a “backstage baby,” performing in his parents’ vaudeville act from childhood. Despite his father’s disapproval, Keaton fell in love with movies and later learned the film business at a friend’s studio. The story ends with Keaton in charge of his own studio. Written in first person, the text consists of a few simple, conversational lines per page. In the author’s note, Brighton mentions the difficulty of separating fact from fiction since Keaton was noted for telling good stories, including the anecdote (illustrated in the book) in which a tornado sucks the boy out the window and sets him down, unharmed, on Main Street. With cartoon-style panel layouts, clean line drawings, and washes in muted colors, aspects of the enticing illustrations are reminiscent of art Keaton could have seen as a child in Little Nemo comic strips and the picture books of Maurice Boutet de Monvel. The bibliography and filmography are too short, but this is a fitting tribute to a movie legend. Grades 3-5. --Carolyn Phelan

Review

Kirkus Reviews Starred Review
Born on the road to vaudevillian parents, “Buster” Keaton earned his nickname from fellow performer Harry Houdini after falling down several flights of stairs as a young child. That was but the beginning of a notable stage and film career highlighted by often-elaborate stunts that made him one of the first and greatest comic movie stars ever. In a short first-person account illustrated with precisely detailed period scenes, Brighton traces Keaton’s childhood in vaudeville and his introduction to the then-nascent art of filmmaking. Even while depicting a speeding locomotive demolishing a house and other renowned movie moments, her art has a formal air that perfectly echoes her central figure’s distracted, expressionless demeanor. Like Don Brown’s Mack Made Movies (2003), this engaging look back at the silver screen’s silent era captures the heady excitement of making—and watching—the early classics and can’t help but lead a new generation of viewers into rediscovering them. (author’s note, recommended sources and films)
 
The Horn Book Magazine 
 
(Primary) When comedian Buster Keaton was a child performer in vaudeville, the audience preferred him not to smile, and his dad would whisper, “Face,” to remind him to keep a serious expression no matter what the antic. In this picture-book biography, art imitates life through a deadpan text that outlines Buster’s life from birth to his early days in Hollywood. “As for school, I went only one day. Miss What’s-Her-Name said, ‘You, Keaton, give me a sentence with the word delight.’ Without thinking, I said, ‘It’s dark, turn on delight.’” Brighton uses comic-book frames masterfully. On some pages, narrow horizontal frames show a perspective differing from the main illustration, while on others two vertical frames propel the action. Exceptions come at pivotal points in the narrative. In one, Buster fiddles with a movie camera; two vertical frames show this moment, one from far away, and the second as a close-up revealing the parts of the machine. The text imparts the importance of the variation: “Gee, that thing, I loved it. Just the feel of it.” Appended are an author’s note, a brief bibliography of adult books, and a list of Keaton films available on DVD that invite further exploration of the man and his movies. b.c.
 
Booklist
In this vivid account of Buster Keaton’s early years, he calls himself a “backstage baby,” performing in his parents’ vaudeville act from childhood. Despite his father’s disapproval, Keaton fell in love with movies and later learned the film business at a friend’s studio. The story ends with Keaton in charge of his own studio. Written in first person, the text consists of a few simple, conversational lines per page. In the author’s note, Brighton mentions the difficulty of separating fact from fiction since Keaton was noted for telling good stories, including the anecdote (illustrated in the book) in which a tornado sucks the boy out the window and sets him down, unharmed, on Main Street. With cartoon-style panel layouts, clean line drawings, and washes in muted colors, aspects of the enticing illustrations are reminiscent of art Keaton could have seen as a child in Little Nemo comic strips and the picture books of Maurice Boutet de Monvel... this is a fitting tribute to a movie legend.— Carolyn Phelan
 
 
*Starred Review * Publishers Weekly, Also the “Featured” Review in the April 17, 2007 issue of PW Children’s Bookshelf Newsletter

Brighton (My Tour of Europe by Teddy Roosevelt Age Ten) follows the great silent actor and filmmaker Buster Keaton from his birth to vaudeville parents to his early 30s, when he emerged as a daring comic auteur. The helicopter-parented generation should find the stories of Keaton's itinerant, rough-and-tumble showbiz life tantalizing: he got his start at age three when his father literally threw him across the stage ("Keep your eye on the kid!"), and he attended only one day of school ("Yep, I got expelled for wisecracking, and that was it. I never went back. Ever"). Brighton has created many picture biographies, and this may be her best effort yet. The tough-talking first-person narration has the cadence of someone who was treated as an adult almost from birth; the detailed images evoke the mise-en-scène of silent movies and give a dreamy grace to even the most slapstick moments. Readers of any age will close the book with an itch to see Keaton's movies—or at least catch his most famous scenes on YouTube. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)

 
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 560L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159643158X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596431584
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 0.5 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on April 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Have you ever seen an author go about their merry way, making books, minding their own business when BLAMMO they suddenly come out with a title that knocks everyone's socks off? I'm sure you have. The thing is, I'm sure that author/illustrator Catherine Brighton put just as much effort into her previous books (My Napoleon, The Brontes, and The Fossil Girl: Mary Anning's Dinosaur Discovery, amongst others) as she did her newest title, "Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton". Be that as it may be, this book is far and away one of the most impressive picture book biographies I've stumbled over in a very long time. It's a visual stunner that somehow manages to tell the story of Buster Keaton's life without prettying up the past or gumming up the facts. Even if you have never read a picture book biography that blew you away, this title will redefine how you think about faithful biographies for kids. To say nothing of how fun it is.

He was born into a troupe of traveling show people, and the stage was always his home. "I sat on frogs' knees and I talked to wooden dummies while Dad and Mom did their act." It didn't take long before Buster (so nicknamed for a fall or "buster" he took when he was very young) got in on the business himself. He'll tell you a tornado sucked him out of his home, plopping him on Main Street, and maybe that could account for how well he could take a fall. In time it was movies that earned his real love.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Badgley on May 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Keep your eyes on the Kid" is a beautifully illustrated and penned childrens book by author Catherine Brighton.She brings a unique blend of first person narrative,easy to comprehend language keyed to her demographic(6-10 years?)which all pertains to a real and famous individual;none other than screen legend Buster Keaton.The title comes from the exhortation his father Joe would use when he would toss little Buster around the stage.
The book is about 32 pages long and comes in at a respectable 10"x 10" size.Its' dust jacket mirrors the inner books actual front and back,so if for some reason the jacket gets lost or damaged it will still retain its' original look.
Ms.Brighton has combed several sources for her research and she lists "some"(sic) on the page back.From her sources she then extrapolated them into a first person narrative,in easy to understand text and with a good flow to it throughout.
The entire volume is enchanced with the lavish illustrations included on every page which further draws the reader into the narrative world that unfolds on each page.
Not only a good book from the stand point of just being a good read for children,it is also educational along the way.And I cannot find any fault(fact wise)in the authors' narrative at all which is all the more laudable.She takes the reader from Keatons birth,to his vaudeville days,onto his teaming with Arbuckle and ending with his first successful solo foray into motion pictures.
In conclusion this is just a wonderful volume on all counts;from the easy to read and understand narrative,to the non-fictional story,to the lavish illustrations which abound throughout.Because it doesn't take literary liberties with the facts it is the perfect educational tool also.
I recommend it highly.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Janette Fuller on January 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Keep Your Eye On The Kid; The Early Years Of Buster Keaton", by Catherine Brighton, is a biography for children.

Little Joe Keaton was born in a boarding house in Piqua, Kansas. His parents were traveling show people and Joe spent most of his young life traveling across the country.

One morning Joe took a nasty fall down the stairs. Harry Houdini picked him up and said, "Gee, that was some buster the kid took". The name stuck and Joe was known as "Buster Keaton" from then on.

Buster was incorporated into his parent's comedy show and was known for the sad look on his face.

When he was old enough to leave home, Buster moved to New York and met his vaudeville friend Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Buster worked with Roscoe until he went to California and opened his very own movie studio. His most famous films were made in the 1920s and Buster became a famous silent movie star.

This book features full-page illustrations that add lively detail to the story. The text consists of two or three sentences on each page. The information in the book is factual and entertaining.

There are very few children's picture books that tell the story of the vaudeville era in America. I think this book will send children back to the library or the internet to search for more information about these early entertainers. There is a bibliography at the end of the book that lists all the Buster Keaton films that are now available on DVD.

I have never seen a Buster Keaton film but I am sure going to find one to watch. I am putting "Steamboat Bill, Jr." on my must-see list.
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